The board of directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was unsure until the last minute on Friday that the Ukrainian government in Kiev would get their delayed loan instalment of $1.7 billion. The board and management were much swifter in erasing personal communications which the IMF representative in Kiev, Jerome Vacher, has been conducting on Facebook with Ukrainian officials; with his personal stylist and hairdresser; and with public relations agents and media publicists for the Ukrainian government.
A Facebook publication by Vacher, in which he identified as his friends the Minister of Finance, Natalie Jaresko; a deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), Vladyslav Rashkovan; and the former governor of the NBU, Stepan Kubiv, was erased last week, hours after a Polish investigative reporter Stanislas Balcerac, queried the propriety of the publication with Vacher’s superiors in Washington.
Balcerac had written to the IMF pointing out that “Natalie Jaresko is on the other side of the negotiation table…and Stepan Kubiv was fired from the post of chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine once his past performance of defrauding Kredobank was revealed.” Vacher and the IMF management were asked: “will you be able to maintain required professional independence necessary to guard the IMF funds from being misused and/or defrauded?”
Vacher and Olga Stankova, spokesman for the Fund’s managing director Christine Lagarde, did not reply to Balcerac. But within hours of reading his disclosure and checking Vacher’s Facebook page, all trace of it had been removed from the internet.
Here is Vacher’s advertisement for his friends and the home-page of his Facebook publication a week ago, before the investigation began and the IMF reacted.
Since the disclosure, some of Vacher’s friends have also erased their Facebook publications. The links the IMF had published to Jaresko’s private Facebook page and to Rashkovan at the National Bank have been cancelled. Click on them now, and the response is: “Sorry, this content isn’t available at the moment. The link you followed may have expired, or the Page may only be visible to an audience that you aren’t in.”
Vacher and the IMF are refusing to respond to Balcerac’s report from Warsaw. Read it in full here.
Vacher’s Twitter account has so far been allowed by the IMF to remain online. There Vacher reveals that on his official time, or when he is off-duty, he follows three virulent critics of Russian policy, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Garry Kasparov, and Bill Browder; posts from the Ukrainian police and secret services; several Ukrainian ministers, public relations outlets for the Maidan movement and the Crimean Tatars; and former US Ambassador to Kiev, Steven Pifer.
Vacher’s Facebook friends who remain online include a Washington, DC, hairdresser named Max Kireev; and Kubiv, who now works as a deputy and presidential lobbyist in the Verkhovna Rada. Kubiv’s record with the IMF can be followed here. Vacher also reported friends at the New York Times and Kyiv Post; and Oleksandr Holubov. Vacher claimed Holubov is working for the German state news agency Deutsche Welle. But there is no record of Holubov there. Instead, he appears as a propagandist for the Ukrainian diaspora.
Vacher, a French national, has been in Kiev since May 2013. Before that he served the French government in Poland, and the IMF in Lithuania and Belarus. According to a 2009 report the IMF commissioned from its “independent evaluation office” on the performance of the Fund’s country representatives, Vacher and officials with comparable assignments receive “terms of reference, authorized by Fund management, setting out the tasks to be undertaken. In practice, however, terms of reference were very general and not of much practical importance. Specific instructions to resident representatives at the beginning of assignments were more often conveyed in conversations with mission chiefs or department directors…In one case, against a background of what was perceived to be long-standing negative and unfriendly attitude on the part of the authorities, the resident representative was able to forge new relationships with officials and played a policy advisory role that was greatly appreciated by the authorities.”
The report claims that one of the tasks of resident representatives for the Fund is “engaging in outreach activities, including contacts with the media.”
On Friday evening the IMF announced it is resuming payments of its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to Ukraine; the disbursement has been delayed by almost two months because of problems Kiev has had in negotiating bond debt relief and budget funding for its civil war. That story can be read here. An IMF staff report, analysing Ukrainian compliance with its EFF obligations, has been announced for public release shortly. Warranting the new payment, IMF deputy managing director David Lipton announced on Friday that Ukrainian officials had made a “strong start”, but would need to show “continued fiscal discipline… to reduce risks and strengthen public finances.”
The IMF denies it disciplined Vacher. Spokesman Stankova said “personal accounts on Facebook by IMF staff are considered a personal matter.” Asked how Vacher’s publication complied with the Fund’s terms of reference for its Ukrainian representative, and why his Facebook publications were removed, Stankova added: “I have nothing more to offer the questions you have raised.”
Section 10 of what the IMF calls its “Code of Conduct for Staff” is headed “impartiality”. The IMF claims to require its officials to “act with impartiality. You should take care that your expression of personal views and convictions does not compromise or appear to compromise the performance of your official duties or the interests of the IMF…You should not allow personal relationships or considerations, including bias or favoritism, to influence the performance of your official duties and you should avoid situations that create a conflict of interest.”
Vacher was asked to address the potential for conflict of interest in his publications, and why he removed them. “Personal accounts on Facebook by IMF staff are considered a personal matter”, he said, intimating that for this reason they are not subject to either the IMF terms of reference or its code of official conduct. “The changes that I have been making to the privacy settings of my personal account,” he replied, “further improve its privacy [and] are of my own personal initiative.”
Regarding the timing of Vacher’s action, and the role the reporting from Warsaw had played, Vacher was asked whether he is “acknowledging that intimate communications with officials of the ministries and the NBU which it’s your job to supervise are inappropriate, or are you saying that such communications should be kept secret?” He did not answer.